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Local Whitstable History: Oyster Heritage,
Historic Railways & Seaside Charm

Discover Whitstable's Marine History and Culture

Whitstable is steeped in wonderful marine history, and the culture of the people and the past of the town itself are fantastic elements in which to immerse yourself.

Whitstable: The Seaside Town Famous for Oysters


Whitstable is a seaside town on the north coast of Kent in south-east England, 5 miles north of Canterbury, with a population of about 30,000. It is famous for oysters, which have been collected in the area since Roman times and are celebrated at the annual Whitstable Oyster Festival.

The Dawn of Seaside Resort and
Transport Evolution in Whitstable

Around the mid-18th century, goods and passengers began to be transported by ship between London and Whitstable, and a toll road was built to the cathedral city of Canterbury. These improvements in transport led to the town's development as a seaside resort; the first advertisements for bathing machines at Whitstable appeared in 1768.


The Historic Canterbury and Whitstable Railway:
The Crab And Winkle Line


On 3 May 1830, the world's first steam-hauled passenger and freight railway service was opened by the Canterbury and Whitstable Railway Company. Designed by William James, the line ran six miles (10 km) from Westgate in Canterbury to Whitstable town centre. The railway line's initials - C&WR - and Whitstable's shellfish industry eventually led to its nickname, the Crab And Winkle Railway. A locomotive drove trains for part of the journey, but on inclined planes were pulled on ropes by steam-driven stationary winding engines located at Tyler Hill and Clowes Wood.

Whitstable Harbour Through the Ages

In 1845, the Canterbury and Whitstable Railway Company was bought by the South Eastern Railway, who introduced steam locomotives capable of operating along the entire length of the railway. A direct rail route from Whitstable to London was established in 1860 when the London, Chatham and Dover Railway opened a station on what is now the Chatham Main Line. On 16 November 1869, 71 buildings in the town were destroyed by a fire started at a shop near the harbour.


Revival and Innovation: Whitstable's Path to Regeneration

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A plant to manufacture tarmac was built beside Whitstable Harbour in 1936. The harbour gradually fell into decay after the Second World War, but in 1958 the Whitstable Urban District Council purchased and repaired the harbour with the intention of rejuvenating the town's economy. By the early 20th century, the Oyster Company of Free Fishers and Dredgers had become the Whitstable Oyster Fishery Company. Oyster production drastically declined between the 1940s and 1970s due to pollution, disease, bad weather and underinvestment, although there has since been a gradual improvement. The Crab and Winkle Line finally closed in 1953, but about a third of the line was reopened as a footpath and cycleway in 1999 under the stewardship of a local charity, the Crab and Winkle Line Trust. One of the main developments to the town in recent years was the Horsebridge project. Completed in 2005, it was designed to regenerate a dilapidated area of the town with the construction of new shops and houses, a town square, and a community centre with a performance space and art gallery.

Canterbury's Rich History and Heritage

Canterbury's history, dominated by the magnificent Gothic Cathedral, is recounted in the city's many museums and visitor attractions. It has three World Heritage Sites (The Cathedral, St Augustine's Abbey and St Martin's Church) and a wealth of old buildings and narrow streets.


The Spiritual Significance of Canterbury in Christianity


After the Kingdom of Kent's conversion to Christianity in 597, St Augustine founded an Episcopal church in the city and became the first Archbishop of Canterbury, a position that now heads the Church of England and the worldwide Anglican Communion.

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